By Jim Buchman, Head of Patron & Catalog Services
2010 has been a very busy year for Ohio’s Talking Book Program. In late September 2009, the national Talking Book Program began its long anticipated transition from analog cassette tapes & players to digital books & players.
In December 2009, the State Library began receiving and distributing 500 digital players every two weeks, which continues today. To date, over 9,000 digital players have been received and distributed. This has been no small task; the turnaround of digital players has been endless and at times relentless. The State Library Talking Book staff is commended for their quickness and dedication in getting these new players into the hands of users.
In March 2010, State Library staff was recognized by the National Library Service (NLS) which published the library’s distribution process as a “best practice.” Phase out of cassette players will begin in late 2011 and should take two to three years to complete.
One of the advantages of using digital books is that registered users with a personal computer may download books to their own flash drive through the Braille & Audio Recordings Download (BARD ) site. The Ohio Library for the Blind & Physically Disabled (OLBPD) began administering BARD for Ohio users in July 2010. To date, OLBPD has registered nearly 1,200 OHIO-BARD users who have downloaded over 54,000 books.
But the biggest change to Ohio’s Talking Book Program had nothing to do with technology. Through FY 2009, two organizations provided talking book services in Ohio: the Cincinnati Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and the Cleveland Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. At the end of FY 2009, the Cincinnati Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped decided it could no longer afford to provide this unique service. Beginning in FY 2010, the Cleveland Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped began providing Talking Book services statewide. The name was changed to the Ohio Library for the Blind and Physically Disabled at the Cleveland Public Library to reflect its expanded service area and role. This was a huge challenge on top of the program’s transition to digital books and players. Will Reed, Manager of the OLBPD, and his staff have done an outstanding job leading and transforming Ohio’s program.
The Talking Book Program is a library service for the blind and physically handicapped in the United States, which is delivered through a network of libraries and agencies coordinated by the Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). Any citizen of the United States who is unable to read or use standard print materials as a result of a temporary or permanent visual or physical limitation is eligible for the program.
The State Library of Ohio coordinates Ohio’s Talking Book Program and serves as the machine lending agency for the state, providing playback equipment to nearly 16,000 Ohio residents. The OLBPD at the Cleveland Public Library loans recorded books and magazines, as well as Braille and other media to registered users.
Current Talking Book patrons should contact the State Library’s Talking Book Program at 1-800-686-1531 to be added to the waiting list to receive a digital player.
Applications to sign up for talking book services are available from the State Library, the OLBPD, or from many public libraries. A PDF version of the application is also available from the State Library’s website at: http://www.library.ohio.gov/PCS/tlk_bk.